When travelling from Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow or any other Northern cities to London, it can be difficult to choose what mode of transport to take.
I have travelled between Edinburgh and London several times this year and have used both the train and the plane as well as driving the route on one mad occasion.
For the purpose of this article I have chosen a random date (my birthday – February 16th 2018) to compare prices on the journey. All costs will be correct at the time of writing and may be subject to change. I have selected the Shard as the final destination and Edinburgh Waverley Station as the start point. I will not be using London Southend, Stanstead or Luton as London airports. I will be basing the comparisons around British Airways Business Class vs Virgin East Coast 1st Class.
So, here goes!
A little bit about the options:
1. The Plane
British Airways operate a non-stop 23 times daily service between London and Edinburgh using a mixture of A319, 320, 321, Boeing 767 and Embraer aircraft. All of these aircraft are fitted with both an economy and business class cabin. If flying into London for a meeting your quickest route would be to fly to London City. Prices for this route start at £70 one way in economy and £138 in business class. Prices to Gatwick start at £39 in economy and £112 in business. Prices to Heathrow are slightly more expensive at £68 and £150 respectively.
Other airlines to operate this route are FlyBe who’s prices start at £40 one way, thus undercutting BA on the Heathrow route, and EasyJet who operate the Gatwick – Edinburgh route. Their prices start as low as £34 one way.
2. The Train
The Edinburgh to London route is operated by Virgin Trains to London Euston and Virgin Trains East Coast to London Kings Cross. Prices on this route start at £40 in standard class and £86 in First Class. Virgin are the only operator on this route. Trains leave Edinburgh two to three times an hour and vary in length. The longest service is the Virgin Trains West Coast service to Euston (5hr 40min) and the quickest is the Virgin East Coast service to Kings Cross which takes 4hr 20min and leaves at half past every hour. This service stops at Newcastle, Doncaster and Leeds.
- Beating the Clock – Flying Takes the Lead.
If you’re travelling on business travel and need to be in London/Edinburgh for a meeting or anything else that requires you to beat the clock then your best bet is to fly. The flight time to London City is meant to be 1hr 30min, however, it rarely exceeds 1hr 15min. Obviously when flying you have to factor in all the other times, too. My times are as follow and are based on a business class flight on BA8713 from EDI to LCY with British Airways.
- 7.30am leave Edinburgh Waverley Station
- 8am Arrive at Edinburgh Airport
- 8.40am Through security and lounge
- 8.50am Board BA8713
- 9.10am Pushback and takeoff
- 10.25am Landing at LCY
- 10.50am DLR and Jubilee to London Bridge
- 11.15am Arrive at Shard
TOTAL TIME TAKEN= 3hrs 45min without delays. Could take between 4 and 5 hours.
These times come out the fastest in comparison with the train which you can see summarised below:
- 8.30am Train leaves Edinburgh Waverley
- 12.50pm Train arrives Kings Cross
- 1pm Northern Line to London Bridge
- 1.15pm Arrive at Shard
TOTAL TIME TAKEN= 4hrs 45min without delays. Could take up to 5 hours. Delays less likely than when flying.
So, if you’re in a hurry – fly. The time taken at both EDI and LCY are minimal seeing as they are small airports. If you flew to LGW or LHR then you would have to factor in the train journey into London, too. These could add up to 45minutes to your journey and a hefty cost.
- I Spy With my Little Eye – Good Views From the Train
When flying from Edinburgh to London you don’t get a chance to take in the beautiful views or get a sense of how much the geography of Britain changes as you move south. I found the train a great experience and especially loved the views between Edinburgh and Durham. If you have the extra time, the train journey is a really fun experience. When travelling towards the South you want to make sure you have a left-hand seat to really appreciate the coastline.
- Comfort – Virgin Trump Again
The most comfort you will get while flying is in the business class cabin on BA where the middle seats are removed for extra space. When sitting at the front of the cabin, comfort is great. The most comfort I have ever had was onboard the B767 in Business Class. If you’re sitting a few rows back, the legroom on all three airlines will disappoint you. Although for a 1hr 15min flight, does it matter?
In the 1st Class coaches of Virgin’s East Coast service, the legroom is great and you get a very large table to share with three other passengers. I decided to go for a single seat which had a smaller yet still decent table. The space was good but I had to use the floor for some storage.
If you’re not in the front row of the BA Business Class Cabin then comfort is definitely better by rail.
- Service – Too Close to Call
On an early morning flight in BA’s Business Class, your service will start in the lounge. With free juice, booze and food on tap – its not bad at all. The meal on the flight is also good, I usually go for the cooked breakfast and there is always an offer of more. You can read about both my evening and morning business class flights by clicking the links. If flying EasyJet or FlyBE then you’ll have to pay for your meal. In terms of service, it depends on the airline and specific crew. I have had fantastic crew on BA and grumpy crew. If flying the 767 routing, you’ll have EuroFleet crew who always seem to make an extra effort.
While the train journey is longer, the menu isn’t as good as I’d hoped. The hot meals on offer are beef and chicken however the person next to me got beef and it didn’t look great so I went for the chicken wrap. The service was fantastic. The crew were polite and smiley and came around with drinks and snacks many times during the trip. This was impressive. Virgin have a lounge at Edinburgh where you can eat snacks and make drinks. Not as good as BA’s offering but still enjoyable.
Overall, the service on both modes are good, the meals are sufficient and crews polite but neither stuck out as superb.
- Ease – Sorry Planes, You’ve Lost Again
While flying may be enjoyable for the vast majority of us, including me, it doesn’t seem worth it to fly such a short distance unless you’re under strict time constraints. There are no barriers at Edinburgh Waverley so all you have to do is walk onto the platform, take your seat and relax.
Flying requires check-in, security and LOTS of waiting around. Once you arrive at LCY it will be very easy but if you fly to LHR or LGW it could be a lot slower to get through.
If you are in desperate need of getting between from Edinburgh to London and don’t have the money to splash then Fly EasyJet to Gatwick for £34
If you want the most enjoyable ride with the best views then Get the Train with Virgin for as low as £40
If you want comfort then Get the train in first class for £86
If you want speed then Book Business Class with BA to London City for £138.
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